Professor Bryan Gaensler wins Pawsey Medal
7 December 2010
Bryan Gaensler, Professor of Physics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy within the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, has won the highly prestigious Pawsey Medal. The Pawsey Medal is awarded annually by the Australian Academy of Science and recognises outstanding Australian research in physics by scientists less than 40 years of age. This is the tenth occasion on which a staff member at the School of Physics has been awarded this honour, a remarkable achievement. Previous winners include Professor Kostya Ostrikov in 2008 and Professor Benjamin Eggleton in 2007. Professor Gaensler received the award for his pioneering studies of cosmic magnetism which have opened a new window on the Universe. He has developed innovative new spectropolarimetric techniques, and has then used them to derive detailed three-dimensional maps of large-scale magnetic fields in the Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds and in distant galaxies. His experiments reveal what cosmic magnets look like and what role they have played in the evolving Universe. They have led to the selection of Cosmic Magnetism as a key science project for the Square Kilometre Array, a planned next-generation radio telescope for which Western Australia is one of the two contenders. As a by-product of studying astrophysical magnetism, Professor Gaensler has also made the stunning discovery that the Milky Way is twice as thick as was previously thought, a result that fundamentally changes our understanding of our home Galaxy. "It's a huge honour to be recognised in this way by a body as distinguished as the Academy of Science," Professor Gaensler said. "Australian astronomy is headed in some very exciting directions right now, and it's wonderful to be able to play a part in this adventure." Looking to the future, Professor Gaensler is about to take on a major new role as an Australian Laureate Fellow, commencing in early 2011. He plans to determine the overall magnetic field of the Universe, one of the final unsolved problems in cosmology.
The series follows eight volunteers with happiness levels significantly below the national average, who live in the Marrickville area - recently identified by Deakin University's annual wellbeing index as one of the unhappiest in Australia.
Dr Grant leads a team of three experts who aim to change the volunteers' happiness scores and their lives in just eight weeks. The other two experts are Dr Russ Harris, a mindfulness coach, and Anna-Louise Bouvier, a physiotherapist and mind-body specialist.
"Happiness is about living a full, rich and meaningful life - the kind of life we'd all like our children to live. But happiness levels fluctuate considerably," said Dr Grant.
"Happiness is made up of psychological wellbeing, such as how much meaning and engagement you have in your life, and subjective wellbeing, which is about how you think about the world and how you feel about yourself."
"We have a significant amount of influence on how happy we are - the choices we make on a daily basis determine our happiness," explained Dr Grant.
The eight volunteers in Making Australia Happy represent a range of ages, backgrounds and life circumstances. What they share in common is the desire to get happy.
"I was with the eight participants over the whole eight week period of the show and saw their ups and downs and challenges they faced - it's all real. It was wonderful to see the participants throw themselves into the exercises we set them. I was amazed at how quickly some of them changed through completing the activities," said Dr Grant.
"Psychology has come up with really useful, evidence-based strategies for improving our wellbeing and helping us reach the goals we set. Does that mean we are always happy? No. Does that mean we turn into Superman? Absolutely not. But it does mean that we can be a bit more resilient."
It's not just the eight volunteers who benefit from the program though. All Australians can learn more about the science of happiness and their own sense of happiness, and complete activities to improve their happiness level via ABC TV's Making Australia Happy website: http://makingaustraliahappy.abc.net.au
"The program is about putting positive messages about wellbeing out there and counteracting some of the negative stuff that we get in the media. It's my mission to bring the benefits of psychology to the masses and Making Australia Happy is one way of doing this," said Dr Grant.
"The show does a good job of having an evidence-based approach and explaining the science of happiness, balanced with the engaging stories of the participants. It would be easy for the show to be trivial, but I'm really pleased at how the production team have approached the topic and how the show has turned out."
His book Eight Steps to Happiness is another way Dr Grant is sharing his research and international findings in the discipline of positive psychology with a wider audience. Positive Psychology has marked a shift away from the disease model of traditional psychology, which focussed on treating dysfunction, to the science of optimal human functioning. Since then, a vast amount of international research has emerged exploring the value of positive emotions, positive traits and positive social institutions such as families, schools, workplaces and communities.
Watch ABC TV's Making Australia Happy at: http://makingaustraliahappy.abc.net.au/episodes.php
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997